Orange (UK)

Brand name
Industry Telecommunications
Founded 1993 (by Hutchison Telecommunications International)
Defunct 2015 (phased into EE)
Headquarters Hatfield, England, United Kingdom
Area served
United Kingdom
Key people
Marc Allera (Chief Executive)
Products Mobile telecommunications products and services
Revenue €5,108 million (2009)[1]
Parent EE Limited

Orange UK was a mobile network operator and a former internet service provider in the United Kingdom, launched in 1993. It was once a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index but was purchased by France Télécom (now Orange S.A.) in 2000, which then adopted the Orange brand for all its other mobile communications activities. Orange UK has since merged with Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile UK to form a joint venture, EE. EE continued to operate the Orange brand until February 2015, when new connections and upgrades on Orange tariffs were withdrawn. Existing Orange customers who wish to upgrade must switch to an EE tariff when their contract term ends, or can choose to remain on their existing Orange tariff without renewing.


Background: 1990–1994

The inception of the Orange brand occurred in 1990 in the United Kingdom with the formation of "Microtel Communications Ltd"[2] – a consortium initially formed by Pactel Corporation (American), British Aerospace, Millicom and Matra (French);[3] and later, to be wholly owned by BAe.[4] In July 1991, the Hong Kong-based conglomerate – Hutchison Whampoa through a stock swap deal with BAe, acquired a controlling stake of 65% in Microtel, who by then had won a license to develop a Personal communications network (PCN) network in United Kingdom.[3][4] As per the stock swap deal, BAe was given a 30% stake in Hutchison Telecommunications (UK) Ltd.

Launch of Orange and expansion: 1994–1999

Hutchison renamed Microtel to Orange Personal Communications Services Ltd; and on 28 April 1994, 'Orange' 1800-MHz GSM network was launched in the UK mobile network market. The Orange brand, at the time an unusual name for a telecommunications firm, was created by an internal team at Microtel headed by Chris Moss (Marketing Director) and supported by Martin Keogh, Rob Furness and Ian Pond. The brand consultancy Wolff Olins was charged with designing the brand values and logo and advertising agency WCRS created the Orange slogan "The future's bright, the future's Orange". The team that launched Orange in the UK was led by Malcolm Way, and later Hans Snook who became the Chief Executive.

A holding company structure was adopted in 1995 with the establishment of Orange plc. In April 1996, Orange went public and floated on the London Stock Exchange and NASDAQ,[5] majority owned by Hutchison (48.22%),[6][7] followed by BAe (21.1%).[5] In June 1996, it became the youngest company to enter the FTSE 100, valued at £2.4 billion. And by July 1997 Orange had gained one million customers.

Acquisition of Orange and part of France Télécom: 1999–2009

The stint as a public company came to an end in October 1999, when it was acquired for US$33 Billion by the German conglomerate Mannesmann AG.[8][9] Mannesmann's acquisition of Orange triggered Vodafone to make a hostile takeover bid for the German company. Shortly thereafter, in February 2000, Vodafone acquired Mannesmann for US$183 Billion and decided to divest Orange as the EU regulations would not allow it to hold two mobile licences.[10] In May 2000, France Télécom announced the acquisition of the global operations of Orange from Vodafone for US$37 Billion, and the transaction was completed in August 2000.[11][12][13][14]

France Télécom subsequently rebranded all its mobile telecommunications as Orange. The company was initially 100% owned by France Télécom (although there were and still remain minority investors in some of the national operating companies). In 2001 15% was sold in an IPO, but in 2003 the outstanding shares were bought back by France Télécom.

Merger with T-Mobile UK: 2009–2015

On 8 September 2009, France Télécom and T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom announced they were in advanced talks to merge their UK operations to create the largest mobile operator with 37% of the market. The Orange brand was to be retained for the first eighteen months at least.[15]

Consumer Focus and the Communications Consumer Panel sent a joint letter to the then Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes in December 2009 asking for the merger to be investigated by authorities in the United Kingdom, rather than Brussels.[16] The British Office of Fair Trading joined this call by asking the EU to allow it to investigate the proposed deal in February 2010, saying that it believed the merger could have a 'significant' effect on competition.[17]

On 1 March 2010 the European Commission approved the merger, on the condition that the combined company sell 25% of the spectrum it owns on the 1800 MHz radio band and amend a network sharing agreement with smaller rival 3.[18]

On 1 April 2010 Deutsche Telekom and France Télécom finalised the deal and completed the merger of their UK based operations, causing Orange UK and T-Mobile UK to cease to exist, although the brands will be maintained for at least 18 months.[19] On 11 May 2010 it was announced that both the Orange and T-Mobile brands will remain on British high streets, although their new merged parent company will be called EE.[20] Orange's broadband service was rebranded as EE Broadband on 30 October 2012.[21]

In 2014, Orange contracts could no longer be bought online, with the website providing news and entertainment articles only. New Orange connections were still possible via EE stores and telesales.

Phase out of Brand: 2015

In February 2015, Orange UK's parent company EE announced that Orange (along with T-Mobile) tariffs were withdrawn for new and existing customers. Existing customers wishing to upgrade must sign up to an EE tariff. This marks the end of services under the Orange brand in the UK.

Starting in July 2015, Orange pay-as-you-go customers also had the ability to dial premium rate and directory enquiries numbers withdrawn. Those who need to call such services being advised to transfer to an EE plan.[22]


Orange and T-Mobile shops in Leeds in 2009. The two have since been re-branded as EE stores.

Orange UK offered two mobile phone packages; pay as you go and pay monthly service plans.

As with other prepaid plans, pay as you go mobile users are given the option to top-up their phone via a swipe card, over the internet, by voucher bought printed as a receipt from a till or via a credit or debit card.

The pay monthly service was withdrawn for new customers and upgrades in 2015. Customers on existing pay monthly accounts can remain on their existing tariffs, however if they wish to upgrade to a new phone or contract, they must choose a plan from parent company EE.

Until the EE takeover, Orange UK operated a GPRS, EDGE and 3G HSDPA service. This has since been merged with T-Mobile's network. Orange's 2G network covered 99% of the UK population, and had the largest integrated 3G/2.5G network in the UK. Orange claimed in 2008 that it spent up to £1.5 million per day investing in its network. In 2009, Orange UK decided to outsource its mobile network.[23] Therefore, in March 2009, Nokia Siemens Networks was chosen to manage, plan, expand, optimise and provide maintenance services for the Orange UK 2G/3G mobile network for the next five years. Currently, Orange customers are only able to access the UK's biggest 3G network along with EE's standard 2G network. Customers that wish to use EE's 4G network, have to upgrade to EE from their Orange plan.[24]

In addition to this Orange UK provided DSL services under the same brand. Originally operated as Freeserve in the UK it was bought-out by France Télécom, rebranded as Wanadoo and on 1 June 2006 Wanadoo was rebranded Orange. When Orange launched its DSL broadband service it offered it for 'free', joining TalkTalk in the foray for market share.[25] The company attempted to converge its mobile and DSL broadband products and offered DSL broadband services alongside its mobile services, at a subsidized rate (up to £15 off full price per month for Orange mobile customers in an Orange Broadband network area). Orange offered 'triple-play' services converging mobile, landline and DSL broadband. Orange UK on its highest broadband service used to offer a Livebox which integrates VoIP technology as well as WiFi, but in more recent times, this router has been replaced by a Netgear router.

Price plans

In April 2006, Orange changed its contract offering by offering four packages to customers, each aimed at different lifestyles and differentiating its offering. Amid much amusement Orange changed the names of its packages to animals: Dolphin, Canary, Racoon and Panther. On some plans there are unlimited minutes (to landlines or Orange UK mobiles), texts or data. In addition to this Orange offers dedicated business plans- Solo and Sense (a sharer plan). Orange also offers 'magic numbers'- unlimited free calls to other Orange UK mobiles on contract or "talk for an hour, pay for a minute" on PAYG (you will have to add it as your "magic number").

Later in April 2008 Orange extended its animals to Pay as you go customers, introducing Dolphin, Raccoon, Canary, Camel and Monkey. Dolphin, Monkey and Canary offer bonuses, whilst Raccoon is a discounted call rate and Camel is for a call-abroad tariff giving discounted calls to foreign countries.

Orange, like other mobile networks, offers an "Internet Everywhere" tariff on pay as you go, pay monthly and business plans. The tariffs names for pay monthly were aligned with the animals theme in May 2010 and Orange now offers both Dolphin and Racoon plans for internet use available on both 1 month and 12 month contracts. In August 2011, the price plans were revised, and names changed to Small, Medium, and Large. Similar to with home broadband, Orange mobile customers receive a £5 discount on their mobile broadband plan. The business plans remained as "Business Everywhere". The 12 month plans come with a USB modem (or dongle) for free. The customer is required to pay a small price for the dongle on the 1 month plans. A portable WiFi dongle can also be purchased, dubbed "Mobile WiFi". The service operates across the network's EDGE, 3G, HSDPA and HSUPA network and offers speeds of up to 3.6 Mbit/s. Orange announced in June 2008 that this speed would be increased to 7.2Mbit/s in the top 30 UK cities and 14.4 Mbit/s in the top 5 cities.[26]

Orange shops

An Orange Shop in London, UK

Orange, like its competitors, operated a retail estate, with over 300 stores. These were branded as "The Orange Shop" and operated as an indirect sales channel.

In September 2012, Orange's parent company EE announced that all Orange and T-Mobile stores were to be re-branded as 'EE' stores by 30 October 2012, the launch date of their 4G network, offering products from all three brands of the company. There are now around 700 EE stores open in the UK. As of February 2015, only EE products are available in stores. However, Orange products can still be purchased online and in various retail stores across the UK.


Orange Gold Spots

Until 2012, at most cinemas across the UK, advertisements for Orange were shown directly before the film, after the other adverts and film trailers, to remind people to turn off their mobile phones if they hadn't done so already. These were officially known as 'Orange Gold Spots'. The adverts featured short sketches involving various celebrities including; Rob Lowe, Dennis Hopper, Macaulay Culkin, Patrick Swayze, Carrie Fisher, John Cleese, Ewan McGregor, and The A-Team. Throughout the sketch, a pair of fictional Orange executives, played by Brennan Brown and Steve Furst, manipulate an idea into film which promotes Orange through product placement, despite the product being completely 'out-of-place' (a mobile phone in a Western Film is one example); the catch line is "Don't let a mobile phone ruin your movie. Please switch it off." After five years, Orange changed advertising agencies and replaced the fictional Orange Film Funding Board with adverts in which the characters now run a film studio, remaking classic films with incongruous mobile phone references inserted.

In April 2010, Gold Spots featuring specific forthcoming films replaced the Orange Film Funding Board parodies. The new adverts, promoting specific movies released by 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney Pictures, Vertigo Films and Nu Image feature the stars of the movie filming scenes in-character of crassly incongruous Orange product placement, before breaking character to complain. The first advert featured the cast of The A-Team, followed by a spot starring Jack Black in Gulliver's Travels, Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway in Rio, Potiche, The Muppets, The Expendables 2 and The Sweeney.

In 2012, the Orange adverts were replaced with adverts for parent company EE, featuring Kevin Bacon.

In addition to this Orange offered 'Orange Wednesdays' from 2003 until 2014. This enabled any Orange customer to apply for 2 for 1 cinema tickets at participating cinemas, by text message. This was a result of Orange attempting to increase cinema visits during the quiet weekly periods. The Orange Wednesdays promotion also allowed Orange customers a 2 for 1 main courses with complimentary appetizers at PizzaExpress restaurants. Both the cinema ticket and meal offers only required a text ticket from Orange, which is entered at point of purchase.[27] EE announced on 11 December 2014 that the Orange Wednesday promotion will end on 25 February 2015.[28]


An Orange Arrows F1 car.

Orange sponsored the Arrows Formula One team from 2000 until 2002.

In spirit with Orange's commitment to cinema Orange sponsored the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards until 2012 which includes an award in its own name – the Orange Rising Star Award. Sponsorship switched to EE from 2013 onwards.

Orange UK has also shown a commitment to music which has included partnering with the Glastonbury Festival to provide mobile charging facilities and offers a music bursary.[29]


In 2008, Orange's slogan, "The future's bright – the future's Orange" was dropped after many years by its CEO Tom Alexander in a bid to save its ailing fortunes.[30]

From July 2008 to 2013, "I am"' became the main slogan, shortened from "I am who I am because of everyone", however subsidiary slogans will were used to describe the company's products and services, for example "I am more focus, less fuzz" was used to describe the Samsung Soul handset.


Expansion to Northern Ireland

In 1996, Orange faced difficulties when expanding into the Northern Ireland region of the United Kingdom. At the time, Orange's slogan was "The future's bright... The future's Orange" but to mention "orange" in such a context could be seen to refer to the Orange Order, a controversial Protestant Loyalist organisation active in the region. This could be offensive to the Irish Catholic population due to the ongoing sectarian violence between the two groups, but only if they chose to take a slogan in such a way.[31]

Data protection

In 2007, Orange was found to be in breach of the Data Protection Act 1998 by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) after complaints from customers about the use of their personal information. Orange has since agreed to reinforce the requirements of the Act.[32] The company was also criticised in the press for its handling of personal data, following complaints of Orange customer data being used by independent mobile sales companies in the practice of slamming. Orange denied any involvement.[33]

Attempted price increases

In August 2009, Orange attempted to increase the cost of its services to customers already under contract.[34] Users were informed that legally, they were allowed to cancel their contract, as this was a breach of contract. Orange reverted their decision, and the price hikes did not go ahead.[34]

In December 2011, Orange sent a text to its customer base to notify them that they were increasing monthly contract fees by just below RPI rates.[35] They imposed a 4.34% increase, coming into effect on 8 January.[36] It was identified that the clause that supposedly allowed Orange to increase by inflation mid-contract, clause 4.3.1, was flawed as it referenced a Statistical Office which no longer exists. Specifically, Orange referenced "the All Items Index of Retail Prices published by the Central Statistical Office in the Monthly Digest of Statistics". The complete Terms and Conditions are available here and here. Orange maintain that their inaccurate wording in previous contracts was legally binding but chose to settle all known court cases brought against them on this issue.[37]

Two years later, following its merger with T-Mobile, the combined companies again signalled their intention to increase the agreed tariffs of existing pay monthly customers.[38] Clause 4.3.1 has now changed to disallow the customer from cancelling their contract if "we give you written notice to increase the Charges (as a percentage) by an amount equal to or less than the percentage increase in the All Items Index of Retail Prices or any other statistical measure of inflation published by any government body authorised to publish measures of inflation from time to time, and published on a date as close as reasonably possible before the date on which we send you written notice".[39] This led to many customers using the change of clause to cancel their mobile phone contracts with Orange.[40]

See also


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  20. Lees, Martina (11 May 2010). "Orange and T-Mobile merges as 'Everything Everywhere'". Daily Mail. London.
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  22. "Changes to numbers starting 08, 09, 116 and 118".
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  39. Pay Monthly Terms – Terms and conditions for the supply of Orange Network Services (PDF), EverythingEverywhere, 31 October 2012, retrieved 9 March 2013
  40. "Beating Orange's price rises for existing customers". Tom Forth. 25 April 2013. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
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